Peter K. Stris

Founding Partner

Los Angeles | New York

Direct: 213.995.6801
Email: peter.stris@strismaher.com

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Peter K. Stris is one of the most prominent business litigators of his generation. As Chambers USA has noted in its annual guides to American lawyers and law firms: Mr. Stris “is a tactical genius and a great leveler” with clients that include “a range of plaintiffs, governmental institutions and corporate entities.” In 2014, Reuters named Mr. Stris one of the nation’s 66 most influential Supreme Court lawyers. The Echo Chamber, A Small Group of Lawyers and Its Outsized Influence at the U.S. Supreme Court, Reuters (December 2014). He was the youngest oralist on that list.

Under Mr. Stris’s leadership, Stris & Maher LLP has developed a national reputation for successfully navigating high-profile and high-stakes business disputes. In the words of the National Law Journal: “Impressively, Stris has managed to win even when conventional wisdom held that he barely had a shot.” 2016 Appellate Hot List, National Law Journal (December 2016).

Mr. Stris is an elected Fellow of both the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers (AAAL) and the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers (CAAL). In addition to eight arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Stris has briefed and argued significant business appeals before nearly every federal circuit and several state courts. He also frequently serves as lead trial counsel (for both plaintiffs and defendants) in a wide range of business disputes throughout the country.

Mr. Stris and his practice are regularly profiled in the media. Examples include: Stris on MSNBC’s Morning Joe (December 2018); Stris & Maher, the LA Boutique, Claims ‘Total Victory’ in Settlement About Alleged Trump Affair, National Law Journal (April 2018); Ex-Playboy Model, Freed From Contract, Can Discuss Alleged Trump AffairNew York Times (April 2018); Stris on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber (April 2018); Stris on ABC’s Good Morning America (March 2018); Sophisticated Work: Close-knit Lawyers at LA Firm Stris & Maher Seeking to Grow with Big Cases and High Stakes, Daily Journal (July 2017); California Attorney of the Year, Reexamining the Federal Employee Retirement LawDaily Journal (March 2017); Top 20 Boutique Law Firms in California: Stris & MaherDaily Journal (October 2016); Three Supreme Court Insiders From Outside the BeltwayNational Law Journal (July 2016); Stris Argues ERISA and Other Cases Before High CourtBloomberg BNA (November 2015); LA Boutique Building a Reputation Before the High CourtNational Law Journal (July 2015).

Mr. Stris received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He earned his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, where, together with Elizabeth Brannen, he won the National Debating Championship, defeating Brendan Maher and his Stanford University partner in the final round.

Mr. Stris routinely serves as lead trial or appellate counsel in a wide range of complex and high-profile disputes. The matters below are representative of his experience:

Intellectual Property Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates a wide range of copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and other IP disputes in trial and appellate courts throughout the country. He is also retained to advise clients on the protection of valuable IP and litigation avoidance. Representative examples include:

 

Copyright and Lanham Act Litigation


Fourth Estate v. Wall-Street.com [Read more here]
In 2019, we prevailed before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of our client (a small Florida company operating a website, later sold to The Motley Fool, LLC) in what has been called the year’s most important copyright decision. Overcoming policy arguments endorsed by multiple circuits and treatise authors, we persuaded the Court that copyright owners cannot sue for infringement until the Copyright Office has formally granted or refused registration. (Our Brief | Opinion | Argument Audio)

Grasshopper House LLC v. Clean & Sober Media LLC, et al.
In 2019, we successfully represented defendants at back-to-back federal trials in this high-stakes Lanham Act false advertising case. (Our clients’ 7-figure pre-trial settlement offer was rejected by the plaintiff who instead sought $65 million in damages, which it asked to be trebled.) Although the jury found a Lanham Act violation, we convinced the court to exclude the plaintiff’s damages expert. A bench trial over equitable remedies and defenses followed, after which the court issued a final judgment denying the plaintiff any monetary recovery. (Order | Denial of Costs)

John Wiley & Sons v. Book Dog Books, LLC, et al.
In 2018, we were retained to appeal a Southern District of New York jury verdict and ultimate award of $39 million in this copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit against our clients (leading sellers of used textbooks). The case settled confidentially about one month after we filed our opening brief with the Second Circuit. (Our Brief)

Berreau v. McDonald’s Corporation
In 2017, we obtained dismissal of this copyright case filed against our client (McDonald’s Corporation) in the Central District of California. (Our Motion | Our Reply | Dismissal Order)

Cisco Systems v. Arista Networks
In 2017, on behalf of The Mathworks, Adobe Systems, Oracle Corporation, and other amici, we filed a Federal Circuit brief in this important case involving the scope of copyright protection for software. (Our Amicus Brief)

Smith v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., et al. [Read more here]
In 2016, the Second Circuit affirmed our 2015 Southern District of New York trial court victory for Barnes & Noble in this lawsuit alleging Copyright and Lanham Act violations. See, e.g., 2nd Circ. Dodges 'Novel' Cloud Storage Copyright Questions (Law360, Oct. 6, 2016) (subscription required); Barnes & Noble Beats IP Suit Over Cloud-Stored E-Books (Law360, Nov. 2, 2015) (subscription required).

 

Trade Secret and Other State Court Litigation


Roe v. Smashwords, Inc., et al. [Read more here]
In 2017, the Sixth Circuit affirmed our 2016 Southern District of Ohio summary judgment defense victory for Smashwords, Inc., the nation’s largest self-publishing platform, in this suit brought by a couple depicted on the front page of a self-published e-book based on NFL player Rob Gronkowski. The case and e-book were made briefly newsworthy after being featured on NPR and TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live. (Our Sixth Circuit BriefSixth Circuit Opinion | Our Summary Judgment MotionOur Reply | Order Granting Motion)

GMPC v. Walker [Read more here]
As lead trial counsel, Mr. Stris successfully defended a privately held design company and its owners in this multi-million dollar trade secret dispute. After a two week trial in California state court, the jury awarded merely $47,000. For nearly 15 years since then, Mr. Stris has served as the company’s outside general counsel. In that capacity, our firm provides advice on all IP issues.

Americana Juice v. Nestle USA
As lead trial counsel, Mr. Stris successfully defended Nestle USA, a Global Fortune 100 company, in a nine-figure trade secret trial in South Texas state court, achieving a jury verdict one-tenth the size of his client’s pre-trial settlement offer. The case was extensively covered by the McAllen Monitor (Article), which colorfully described Mr. Stris’s closing argument after the jury was asked to award $100 million in compensatory damages: “Holding a lottery ticket, Stris told jurors . . . ‘She thought she had a ticket to the Texas Mega Millions.’”

 

Patent Litigation


Ongoing / various
The firm has an active patent litigation practice led by Elizabeth Brannen, the former head of IP for Barnes & Noble. Particularly on issues of strategy, Mr. Stris frequently collaborates with Elizabeth Brannen in such cases. That successful collaboration spans many years: in one of their first patent cases together (over 15 years ago), they sought and obtained summary judgment of non-infringement for a privately held technology company in a hearing held concurrently with the initial case-management conference. (Our Motion | Our Reply | Order)

Akamai v. Limelight
In 2016, on behalf of Dell Inc., Facebook, Inc., Red Hat, Inc., Vizio, and other amici, we filed a U.S. Supreme Court brief in this closely watched patent appeal concerning the standard for liability under 35 U.S.C. 271(a) on a method claim where multiple parties perform the required steps. (Our Amicus Brief)

Biosig Instruments v. Nautilus
In 2015, on behalf of Garmin International, Inc., Newegg Inc., SAP America, Inc., Xilinx, Inc., and other amici, we filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Circuit in this landmark patent case on the standard for “definiteness” under 35 U.S.C. 112. (Our Supreme Court Amicus Brief | Our Federal Circuit Amicus Brief)
Pension Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates pension disputes throughout the country. He is also retained by plan sponsors and their executives to provide advice on regulatory compliance and litigation avoidance. For example:

Frommert v. Conkright [Read more here]
For a decade, Mr. Stris served as co-lead counsel for dozens of pensioners in this case against the Xerox pension plan. Xerox was ordered to pay—and paid—more than $22 million to plaintiffs. This epic dispute resulted in a published opinion by the U.S Supreme Court in 2010 (Supreme Court Opinion | Argument Audio) and three published opinions by the Second Circuit, including major victories for our clients in 2013 (Second Circuit Opinion | Argument Audio) and in 2016 ($4.9 Million Fee Order).

LaRue v. DeWolff Boberg & Associates, Inc.
In 2006, Mr. Stris and colleagues persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court (Petition) to hear this landmark case about the rights of 401(k) account holders. In 2007, after successful briefing (Our Opening Brief) and argument (Audio), we obtained (Supreme Court Opinion) what the New York Times described as “one of the most important rulings in years on the meaning of the federal pension law . . . .”

Allen v. Honeywell Retirement Earnings Plan [Read more here]
In 2012, Mr. Stris and colleagues obtained a $23.8 million settlement (Order and Judgment | Fee Motion) in this complex pension class action in Arizona federal court. Defendants were represented by nationally recognized pension lawyers from Proskauer Rose LLP, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, and Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Eddingston v. UBS Financial Services; Hendricks v. UBS Financial Services
In 2013, the Eastern District of Texas appointed Mr. Stris co-lead counsel for a certified class of financial advisers seeking over $200 million that was seized by UBS. Defendants, represented by nationally recognized pension lawyers from Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, filed a motion to compel arbitration (Motion). After full briefing and lengthy argument by Mr. Stris in the trial court, that motion was denied (Transcript & Opinion). Defendants, represented by a new team of attorneys from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP (led by the former U.S. Solicitor of Labor), opposed class certification (UBS Opposition). After full briefing (Our Reply) and another lengthy argument by Mr. Stris, the trial court certified the class. After briefing (UBS Brief | Our Fifth Circuit Brief) and argument (Audio) of defendants’ interlocutory appeal, the Fifth Circuit ordered plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims.
Healthcare Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates healthcare disputes throughout the country. He is also retained by medical providers, government officials, and employers to provide advice on regulatory compliance and litigation avoidance. For example:

Montanile v. Board of Trustees [Read more here]
After preserving the key legal issue through briefing and argument in the Eleventh Circuit (Eleventh Circuit Brief | Argument Audio), Mr. Stris and a team of firm lawyers persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court (Petition) to hear this important case about the scope of reimbursement rights available to federally regulated health insurance plans. In an 8-1 decision authored by Justice Thomas (Opinion), the Court adopted the position advanced in our firm’s merits briefing (Our Opening Brief | Our Reply) and argument (Audio). This was the third of three related cases handled by Mr. Stris and our firm before the Supreme Court beginning with Sereboff v. Mid Atlantic Medical Services, argued by Mr. Stris in 2005 (Audio), and followed by US Airways v. McCutchen, briefed by our firm in 2013 (McCutchen Brief).

Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. [Read more here]
Mr. Stris was retained by the State of Vermont to assist in the preparation of a petition for certiorari (Petition) in this important healthcare preemption case. After our petition was granted, Vermont retained our firm to continue as co-counsel on the merits. After briefing (Our Opening Brief | Our Reply) and oral argument by Bridget Asay (who at the time was the Solicitor General of Vermont), the Court rejected our position. Justices Ginsburg and Kagan dissented (Opinions).

Catastrophically Injured Individual v. Health Plan Fiduciaries
Mr. Stris represented a heroin addict who was rendered quadriplegic in a terrible car accident. Insisting that the accident was not covered, our clients’ health plan refused to pay for any of the $1.3 million in medical bills resulting from the accident or to cover any future medical care. Without any need for litigation, Mr. Stris was able to persuade the health plan to do an about face and cover all relevant medical expenses (Our Administrative Letter-Brief) (redacted).
Securities Litigation
Mr. Stris litigates disputes involving both public and private companies in trial and appellate courts throughout the country. He is also retained to arbitrate such disputes before AAA, FINRA, and other arbitral bodies. For example:

Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Manning [Read more here]
In May of 2016, Mr. Stris and a team of firm lawyers prevailed before the U.S. Supreme Court in this important securities jurisdiction case. We represent a group of investors who sued several major financial institutions in New Jersey state court for violations of New Jersey law. The suit alleges that defendants’ illegal practices precipitated a loss of over $800 million in investor value. Led by Merrill Lynch, the financial institutions argued that the federal securities laws required the case to be brought exclusively in federal court. Writing for the Court (Opinion), Justice Kagan adopted one basis for affirmance of the decision below advanced by our firm (Merits Brief). Concurring in the judgment, Justice Thomas (joined by Justice Sotomayor) adopted another basis for affirmance advanced by Mr. Stris at oral argument (Argument Audio).

Schueneman v. Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. [Read more here]
Mr. Stris was lead appellate counsel in this 9-figure securities fraud class action against a publicly traded pharmaceutical company and its executives. Plaintiffs allege that defendants provided investors with misleading information about the prospects for FDA approval of lorcaserin, a weight loss drug under development at that time. Under the standards established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, the facts alleged in a civil securities fraud complaint must establish a “strong inference” that defendants acted with wrongful intent. In March 2014, the Southern District of California dismissed the case, holding that the complaint’s allegations did not support such an inference. Shortly thereafter, lead counsel Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP retained Stris & Maher LLP to brief (Our Opening Brief | Our Reply) and argue (Argument Video) the appeal. On October 26, 2016, the Ninth Circuit reversed 3-0 in our client's favor (Opinion). In November 2017, the parties reached a settlement agreement that would pay $24 million cash and stock to the proposed class.

Parties Confidential
Mr. Stris served as one of three arbitrators alongside the former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (appointed by President Carter) and a former judge on the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (appointed by President Reagan) in an 8-figure accounting malpractice dispute.
Employment Litigation
Mr. Stris supervises junior firm lawyers who represent both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of employment disputes involving issues such as wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, and harassment. In cases involving senior executives, significant damages, or important precedent, Mr. Stris sometimes takes a leading role. Representative examples include:

Halliwell v. Gordon [Read more here]
Within days of deposing defendant, Mr. Stris obtained a highly favorable confidential settlement for the former CEO of Bumble & bumble in a New York state court dispute over compensation arising from the $120+ million sale of the company to Estee Lauder.

Holloway v. Wells Fargo
Junior firm lawyers were retained to litigate this employment case filed in California state court on behalf of a long-time Wells Fargo employee. Asserting a jurisdictional position that has split the circuits, defendants removed the case to federal court. Mr. Stris sought (Motion to Remand | Reply) and obtained (Order) remand.
Other Notable Cases
Microsoft v. Baker
Mr. Stris and the firm were retained to represent plaintiffs, a putative class of consumers, in this design defect case alleging that Microsoft’s popular Xbox360 console scratches game discs during ordinary use. The U.S. Supreme Court appeal, which presented important questions about class action procedure, was briefed by our firm (Our Brief) and argued by Mr. Stris (Argument Audio). It was his seventh argument before the Court. Although the Court issued an 8-0 adverse decision (Opinion), it left the door open to a favorable outcome on remand.

Dollar Gen. Corp. v. Miss. Band of Choctaw Indians [Read more here]
The State of Mississippi retained our firm to prepare and file an amicus brief on a critical question regarding the scope of tribal jurisdiction: whether Indian tribal courts may ever adjudicate civil tort claims in suits against nonmembers. Our Brief, joined by the States of Mississippi, Colorado, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, marks the first time that any state has ever supported a finding of tribal jurisdiction in a major case before the Supreme Court. Our side prevailed before an equally divided Court.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, Inc. v. Fossen
After the Supreme Court called for the views of the United States, Mr. Stris was retained by the former Insurance Commissioner for the State of Montana to serve as lead appellate counsel in this important case about the federal preemption of state insurance law. After reviewing submissions (Our Letter Brief) and meeting with both sides, the United States recommended denial of the petition (U.S. Amicus Brief). The Court subsequently denied the petition, preserving the Ninth Circuit victory for our clients.
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Education

Harvard, J.D. (2000)
UPenn, B.A. (1997)

Admissions
“Impressively, Stris has managed to win even when conventional wisdom held that he barely had a shot.” National Law Journal